STOCKTON – When Californians go to the polls or vote by mail two months from now, one of their key decisions will be whether to raise taxes to help the state weather its ongoing financial woes.
But they also will have to decide whether to approve a measure that backers say would be a big step toward repairing the budgeting process that has factored into California’s fiscal ills.
The measure, Proposition 31, includes four key provisions. Its supporters, including the California Republican Party, say Proposition 31:
- » would make the state budget process more transparent by requiring every bill be available in print to the public for a minimum of three days before it can be voted on by the legislature.
- » would impose fiscal discipline by requiring any revenue expenditure of more than $25 million have an identified funding source. The state’s seemingly never-ending budget battles would give way to a two-year cycle. Proposition 31′s supporters say the state would benefit from more long-term planning.
- » would make state and local government more accountable by establishing performance goals for public programs, and by mandating that all programs be reviewed at least once every five years. Six months of every two-year budget cycle would be dedicated by the legislature to oversight of existing programs.
- » would shift some power away from the state, putting it back in the hands of counties and cities.
- “I see California as a patient who has been in a very, very serious car accident,” said Peter Weber of California Forward, a nonprofit group founded in 2006 with financial supporters that include the Hewlett, Irvine and Packard foundations. “We got to where we are because there is dysfunction throughout the system.”
Proposition 31′s supporters include retired California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, and Bill Hauck, former chairman of the California Constitution Revision Commission.
Opponents include the California Democratic Party and the leaders of organizations such as the California Federation of Teachers, the California Tax Reform Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California.
They argue that Proposition 31 would add bureaucracy, that it adds layers of restrictions and “poorly defined” requirements, and that it will lead to “lawsuits and confusion.” Another argument raised by some opponents is that Proposition 31 would “vastly expand the power of the governor by allowing him or her to cut or eliminate virtually any existing program during a fiscal emergency.”
Proponents of Proposition 31, however, argue that approval of their measure will be the first step toward repairing California’s economy.
“There is no magic solution,” Weber said. “We need to approach this in significant increments.”
Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/phillipsblog.